Amidst a rapidly growing population, the future of farming and the requirements needed to help the industry tackle challenges looks technologically different from the farming of today.
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has predicted that the global population will hit eight billion people by 2025 and by 2050, nearly ten billion. In order to feed this population, there must be a 70% increase in food production. This is a somewhat worrying statistic considering the barriers to fulfilling this requirement like a lack of government funding, limited availability of land for arable farming, the changing climate, fresh water supplies, the increasing average age of farmers brought about by fewer young people entering the industry and lack of labour since Brexit.
To meet these challenges, the FAO wants to see farming sectors equipped with 21st-century techniques and digital technologies. This will remove reliance on farmer expertise and intuition and replace it with fact-based information and technology, the most common method being Machine to Machine Internet of Things (M2M IoT). This will negate the need for human intervention which can be limited, especially in our climate’s current and anticipated farming challenges.
Considering the future of farming, this smarter way of utilising information and data technologies to optimise agricultural practices includes the use of sensors, drones and automated machinery. These technologies produce data and metrics which give farmers access to consistent information on all stages of crop production and the status of livestock. It also enables farmers to apply such data to evaluate agricultural practices and make future decisions. This will preserve resources, minimise environmental impact and improve efficiency in a sustainable manner.
Precision agriculture, or smart farming, is based upon the use of technologies and has the potential to greatly assist farmers in a variety of ways, from increasing efficiency and productivity to improving crop yields and reducing waste. We have had a look at the future of farming with some specific examples of how technology can assist farmers amidst the rising population.
Precision agriculture (PA) is the science of assisting management decisions and improving crop yields using high-technology sensor and analysis tools. Not only will PA increase production, it should also reduce labour time. Farmers can use technology like GPS, drones and sensors to collect data on soil moisture, nutrient levels and other factors that affect crop growth. This data can be used to make precise decisions about when and where to plant, fertilise and irrigate crops, leading to lower input costs and maximising profitability. Additionally, this method used to observe, measure and respond to spatial variability is a more time-efficient way for farmers to increase both crop and livestock production.
Farm management software
Farmers can use specialised software to manage their operations, including tracking inventory and expenses and monitoring crop growth. This can help farmers optimise their resources and make more informed decisions about their operations. Such software includes farm mapping to visualise your entire operation from anywhere, as well as individual and mob management to find out with confidence which animals yield the most profits, highest quality carcasses and best returns on your investment. The future of farming will also utilise grazing insights which offer strategies and decisions regarding fertiliser, cover crops and other factors affecting your pasture performance, all in real time.
Technology like automated irrigation systems and robotic milking parlours can help farmers save time and labour costs while increasing efficiency and precision. The dairy sector is characterised by high cost-sensitivity and mass production so digitalisation offers a new way of optimising the entire value chain. This way, farmers’ valuable time and resources can be distributed on the production that truly relies on human dedication. Looking to the future of farming, sensor technologies, driverless operations and other innovative autonomous solutions are even in the works, to achieve the same precision and quality as manual farming but with the added bonus of speed and, as a consequence, time efficiency.
Climate monitoring technology can provide farmers with up-to-date information on weather patterns and climate conditions. This monitoring is based on decades of atmospheric and ocean observations including measurements of surface temperature, precipitation and records of daily data to predict the weather, including extreme weather conditions such as ice and storms. This allows farmers to better prepare for and adapt to changes in the environment, potentially saving vital crops and resources in addition to money.
Technology has made it easier for farmers to connect with industrial buyers and sell their products directly, reducing the need for intermediaries and increasing profitability. These are in the form of digital platforms and come with a host of benefits for both the farmer and the buyer. Not only is there unlimited access to a global market, but they encourage transparent and reliable market information, deal creation and negotiation with secure payment processes and tailored product verification often with customer support and insight. This makes the future of farming accessible, efficient and simple.
Overall, technology has the potential to revolutionise the way farmers operate, making their work more productive, sustainable and ultimately more prepared to cope with the demand of a rising population. At Microcomms, we work with several providers in the industry to provide you with the support and guidance needed when digitising your farming operations, from software to automated equipment.
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